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The Best Kids Bikes (And How To Choose Them)

Jeff Balton

Kids bikes

You are about to pick a tool for your kids that will partially define their future. If you do it well, you will raise the confidence of your kid. So let’s make sure to do it right. We’re here to guide you through the process of buying the best bike for your kid.

We respect your time. Therefore, we’ll make sure to explain everything in a straightforward and comprehensive way. Whenever you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments section below.

Get the Right Fit

Kids bike sizes are not the only thing that matters — the geometry does as well.

Some kids bikes have a long wheelbase which means they are more stable, but a short wheelbase is not necessarily bad either. It all depends on what result you want to get and what you wish to focus on. The general rule is:

Wheelbase

Kids grow fast, so a lot of parents buy a bike that is one size too big to avoid buying another bike soon. That’s understandable, but it can turn into a problem. If your kid feels unstable because the bike is too big and they need to grow into it, then what’s the point?

Always make sure to buy a bike on which your kid’s ideal seat height is close to the bike’s minimum seat height. That way, you will have some room to adjust the fit as your kid grows.

Also, make sure to carefully choose the wheel size.

How to measure kids leg inseam

The wheel size will determine how the bike fits your kid and whether they are able to fully enjoy it. The wheel size also determines the standover clearance, which is crucial for both safety and comfort. More about this below.

 

The Right Kids Bike Size

Have a look at this simplified kids bike size chart below.

Kids bike sizes are work a bit different compared to adult bike sizes. To determine the right size, you should start with the inseam. Without making things too complicated, the inseam is the length of the inside of the leg, from the floor to the crotch.

Measure your child’s inseam length and compare it to the chart below to find the right size.

Wheel size12″14″16″20″24″26″
Approx Age2 to 32 to 44 to 65 to 88 to 1110+
Approx Inseam14″ – 17″16″ – 20″18″ – 22″22″ – 25″24″ – 28″25″ +
In cm35 – 43 cm41 – 51 cm46 – 56 cm56 – 64 cm61 – 71 cm64+ cm
Approx Height2’10” – 3’4″3’1″ – 3’7″3’7″ – 4’0″4’0″ – 4’5″4’5″ – 4’9″4’9″ +
In Inches34″ – 40″37″ – 43″43″ – 48″48″ – 53″53″ – 57″57″ +
In Cm63.5 – 102 cm94 – 109 cm109 – 122 cm122 – 135 cm135 – 145 cm145+ cm

Seat Height vs. Standover Height

The right saddle height differs from one situation to another:

  • Balance bikes – the seat should be 1″ to 1.5″ below the child’s inseam.
  • Training wheels – 0 – 3″ above the child’s inseam
  • 1st pedal bike – the saddle height should be the same as the child’s inseam
  • Next pedal bike – 2″ to 4″ above their inseam

This is important to keep in mind to improve the stability and the comfort of your kid on the bike. It’s important for them to be able to touch the ground with their feet without getting hurt.

Otherwise, they might feel unstable or lack confidence.

With the right standover height, they’ll be able to get off the bike whenever necessary and feel they’re in full control.

Right Kids Saddle height

Click to make it bigger

 

Forget the Training Wheels (Seriously!)

I used to think training wheels were a great invention.

Actually, they aren’t.

The thing is that kids have a pretty good balance. Much better than what we think. When kids fall, they learn from it, unlike many adults.

You don’t believe it? Try to simulate a similar situation where they fall in a safe environment. See how they approach the situation differently after that. They might fall but they learn from it and take a different approach to prevent it from happening again.

Say no to training wheels

The problem with training wheels is that there are too many variables from the environment that influence them. There are bumps, uneven roads, and different ground types, all of which kids should keep in mind when cycling. Bikes with training wheels don’t have a proper balance point which means that kids are “riding” (read “bouncing”) from one side to another, experiencing unrealistic balance points. Riding like this will not help develop their sense of balance.

 

That means that if they learn to ride on a bike with training wheels, they have to re-learn it again once you introduce them to a two-wheeler.

So, what would the solution be…?

Go for Two-Wheelers Straight Away


Skip the training wheels

For kids, riding a balance bike is basically walking with support.

Kids can compensate for the uneven balance pretty quickly. At first, they will just walk with the balance bike but then they’ll start to run as their sense of balance improves. Kids’ training bikes are suitable for the age of 1.5 years up to 4 years, which is the right time to introduce them to pedals.

Depending on the kid, mastering a pedal bike may take anywhere from a few minutes to several days. That’s a much shorter period than teaching them to ride with training wheels and then teaching them again with a pedal bike.

 

What Else to Consider?


Tires: The only part that connects them to the ground. A bicycle for kids with air-filled tires is the best choice. Foam is okay as well on balance bikes but forget about anything made from plastic. Plastic won’t provide them with the proper cycling experience and they wear out quickly.

Bicycle Tire TypesThe wider the tire, the more power is needed to move it, but the better traction it has when riding. Skinny tires don’t give the needed cushioning and put a lot of stress on the hands. They are okay when kids are older and make their first steps in road biking.

Components: Components have different quality classes, which proper brands make quite decently. If you go for a cheap bike, make sure the gears and brakes are decent. If they fail, the consequences can be painful. Make sure you can adjust the saddle not just up and down but forward and backward as well. Moving the saddle an inch in any direction may completely change how the bike handles. Such saddles can be purchased later on too.

Brakes: Rim brakes are more accurate compared to coaster brakes. Most kids’ bikes have only rear brakes which are quite easy to learn how to use.Kids bike brake tyhpes

Gearing: There are single speed bikes and multi-gear bikes. Most cheap kids bikes are single speed and will do the job until the age of 7. After that, it’s a good idea to start introducing gears and shifters.

Related: How to cycle better

Maintenance


Kids bikes require low maintenance, but it still has to be done. Very cheap kids bikes require more maintenance, but it’s nothing substantial.

Maintenance

On balance bikes, once in a while, you should check the tightness of the screws. Bikes with gears and brakes need additional adjustments as they get worn out. Most things that need maintenance on kids bikes are easy to take care of.

All of it can be done with the help of omniscient Youtube. If you don’t want to do it all by yourself, take the bike to a local bike shop. They’ll do it for you, which will extend the life expectancy of your kid’s bike.

This is also a good opportunity to teach your kids about taking care of their things. I see people don’t take care of their bikes way too often, which is a real pity.

 

Basic Things to Teach Your Kid

Brakes: Make sure to teach your kid to use both brakes and explain the physics of the shortest stopping distance (just between skidding and rolling over). Your responsibility is to check their brakes regularly.

Kids front and rear brakes

Changing the pads and adjusting the tension is something every person can do, though it might require some time spent on YouTube and practicing at first.

Gears: When your kid receives their first multi-gear bike, make sure to teach the proper shifting techniques from the beginning. When changing gears, they should do it gently and avoid crossing the chain (a smaller chainring on the front and a higher one on the rear, and vice versa).

Try to avoid cross chaining

Turning: The higher the speed, the smaller the turning angle. Ask them to turn and brake at the same time. They should be able to find the balance of how much they could turn. On sharper turns, they can use their leg for support.

Helmet: Always keep the helmet on! And not just on, but fitted correctly. It might feel uncomfortable at the beginning but kids get used to it, and then they can play for several hours forgetting the helmet on their head. My kids have also come to the lunch table with their helmets still on. 🙂

Always wear a helmet

Confidence: One thing that nobody talks about is confidence when riding a bicycle. To learn this basic skill at an early age is crucial. I often see grown-ups who lack confidence on their bikes. In some cases, it’s because they haven’t ridden for many years. If I ask, most riders say that they didn’t like to ride a bicycle when they were young. Some have admitted that their parents weren’t fully supportive during this very important period.

Take your time and go to each and every lesson with your children. Your kids will learn quickly when you are fully involved.

 

How Much to Pay for a Kids Bike?

How much to pay for the bikeSame as with any other type of bike, there is no best answer here.

We only suggest buying the best bicycle for kids that you can afford. There are relatively cheap kids bikes that are decently made. What we recommend is not to go too low. It’s the same with all other bikes — cheap components can increase your repair and maintenance bills later on.

Keep Several Things in Mind:

  • You buy it to last for several years.
  • There’s a good aftermarket for kids bikes.
  • The better the quality, the less disappointment for kids.
  • Keep in mind the average price of their friends’ bikes, so as not to encourage competition.

We hope we gave you a good overview of kids bikes.

If you wonder where to start, then we will make life easier for you and point out the best picks in our opinion. These are reliable bikes that will last for many years. We categorized them according to kids age and picked one winner for each section, as well as a runner-up, an alternative if you don’t like our first choice.

What kids’ bike brands are good?

There are many bike brands out there that make excellent kids bikes.

Some of the best companies in the industry, that focus on adult bikes, also make great children bikes. However, there are also many companies that make fantastic kids bikes but are not that well known. Some of the best brands that you should keep an eye out for include:

  • Strider
  • Co-op Cycles
  • woom
  • Raleigh
  • Cleary Bikes
  • Cannondale

…and many others.

Check out our best picks below to get an idea of where to start choosing. These are the best kids’ bikes.


Strider Sport 12“

Best Balance Bike for Toddlers


Strider Sport 12 in Yellow

MSRP: $120
TIRE SIZE: 12″
SUITABLE FOR: 18 months to 5 years
FEATURES: 6.7 lbs., foam tires, several colors, handlebar pads, quick release seat and handlebar.

Strider is probably the best-known balance bike in the world for toddlers. That’s for a good reason since the build and the fit are on a very high level.

One may think that it is fairly easy to build such small children bikes, but they would be wrong. Kids often misuse and abuse their bikes, giving them a rough treatment frequently. There are no weak points on this Strider Sport. The hard foam tires will never go flat and will give a proper grip on any terrain. Thanks to the light weight of just 6.7 lbs, the kids will cycle with ease.

One thing worth mentioning is the fact that this Strider is the most durable bike out there, with the best life expectancy. So, in our opinion, it’s the best toddler bike out there.

VIEW ON AMAZON

Banana GT2

Consider also

Banana GT Balance Bike

 

MSRP: $88
TIRE SIZE: 12″
SUITABLE FOR: 18 months to 4 years
FEATURES: Air tires, Quick release seat, Aluminum handlebar

Banana GT is a more budget version of a 12-inch toddler bike. It doesn’t have a Quick-Release or the padding on the handlebar, but it is a reliable cheap toddler bicycle

The weight is 10 lbs, which isn’t too heavy for toddlers but there are lighter bikes available. The old model had problems with the bearings which was fixed on the upgraded model. Your kid will have some memorable moments on it, but don’t expect it to last for generations.

If you want a budget-oriented balance bike, then this one has a nice balance between the quality and the price. Consider it if you are buying your kid’s first bike and you’re looking for the best bikes for toddlers.

VIEW ON AMAZON

woom 2

Best Kids’ Bike for 3-Year-Olds

woom 2 14

MSRP: $339
TIRE SIZE: 14″
SUITABLE FOR: 3 – 4.5 years (37″ – 43″)
FEATURES: Rim brakes, a chain guard, three colors. Weight 11.24 lbs. Wheelbase 25.1″. Seat height 15.94″ – 19.09″

If you’re looking for a bike for a three-year-old, you should be looking for models with 12″ or 14″ tires. The leg inseam should be anywhere between 16″ and 20″ for your kid to fit comfortably on one of these. This particular model has 14″ tires, so kids up to 4.5 years of age can ride it. It comes with front and rear V-brakes, as well as a coaster brake, to make things more fun.

The seat has a quick-release clamp, so it will be easy to adjust the seat height as your kid grows. woom is the smart choice when you are looking for a toddler bike.

 

Get from woombikes.com

Early Rider Limited Trail Runner+

Consider also – Suitable for 3 & 4-year-olds

Early Rider Limited Trail Runner+

MSRP: $199
TIRE SIZE: 14″
SUITABLE FOR: 3 – 4.5 years (Standover height 18″)
FEATURES: Kids fat bike with 2.4″ wide tires. 6061 alloy frame. Claimed weight is 8 lbs.

If your kid did not learn how to balance a bike as a small toddler, it’s not too late now either. This is a really lightweight all-aluminum balance bike intended for 3 to 4.5-year-olds. It has fat and knobby 2.4″ wide tires, which improve the grip and stability and make the bike rideable anywhere. It’s the perfect model to get your child to fall in love with cycling because it looks mean as well.

Consider also: Strider

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Co-Op Cycles REV 16

Best Kids’ Bike for 5 & 6-Year-Olds (with 16″ wheels)

Product image for Teal Blue

MSRP: $179
TIRE SIZE: 16″
SUITABLE FOR: 3 – 6 year olds (35″ – 45″). Standover height of 18″, seat height 21″ – 25″
FEATURES: Removable training wheels with 2.5″ of vertical adjustment. Weighs 16 lbs. The wheelbase is 31 inches.

This 16″ Co-op Cycles model is ideal as your kid’s first pedal bike. It has training wheels, but as I advised before, it would be best to remove them and let your child figure things out on their own. The frame is pretty lightweight and the tires are 1.75″ wide, which is plenty to offer a good grip on all surfaces. This model does not have hand brakes, but a coaster brake, which kids love using.

Also available, if you are looking for a girls’ 16-inch bike: Co-Op Cycles toddler girl bike

 

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Raleigh Rowdy

Consider also

Raleigh Rowdy

MSRP: $239.99
TIRE SIZE: 16″
SUITABLE FOR: 3 – 6-year-olds (38 to 45″ tall)
FEATURES: Single speed. Low standover. Alloy V-brake. Weighs 21.5 lbs

Another great choice for your 3 to 6-year-olds is the Raleigh Rowdy. This is a single-speed model, so your kid will not have to worry about changing gears. Instead, they can focus on proper pedaling technique and balance. The best thing about this bike is that it has a pair of aluminum V-brakes, which are much better than plastic ones seen on similar bikes.

There’s a coaster brake as well to do some skidding!

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Cannondale Quick 20

Best Kids’ Bike for 7-Year-Olds

Product image for Aqua

MSRP: $370
TIRE SIZE: 20″ (1.5″ wide)
SUITABLE FOR: 4’0″ – 4’5″ height. Standover height 20″
FEATURES: Available in two colors: blue and orange. SmartForm C2 Alloy. 7-speed. Weight 18 lbs.

Cannondale Quick 20 is one of the best kids’ bikes you can get for your 7-year-old. It’s available in two colors, so it’s suitable both for boys and for girls. It’s a great option to introduce your kids to gears and shifting for the first time since this model has 7 gears.

The derailleur is a Shimano Tourney, which should last for a decent amount of time with some care. The tires on Cannondale Quick 20 are 1.5″ wide, which is suitable both for off-road rides and for rides on bike paths. It’s a nice-looking bike from a well-known manufacturer, which is always a plus.

It can be the first “real” choice when you are looking for a proper toddler bicycle.

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Cleary Bikes Owl Single speed

Consider also

Cleary-Owl

 

MSRP: $425
TIRE SIZE: 20″
SUITABLE FOR: Standover 19″
FEATURES: Three colors. Lifetime warranty. Tektro V-Brakes. Weighs 19.1 lbs

This Cleary model keeps things straightforward and classy. It comes in three colors (orange, green, and blue) and has a brown faux-leather saddle which looks very comfortable. This bike has no gears, so it’s better suited for newer riders who have just learned how to ride or are still learning.

Cleary Owl has a pair of powerful Tektro V-brakes and wide knobby tires, so stopping and cornering is a breeze. The brake levers are ideal for smaller hands. The weight is a bit higher because of the steel frame, but steel is the most comfortable frame material there is.

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Co-Op REV CTY (24″ Tires)

Best Kids’ Bike for 8 to 11-Year-Olds

Product image for Side view (Evergreen)

MSRP: $329
TIRE SIZE: 24″ x 1.5″
SUITABLE FOR: Standover height is approx. 20″
FEATURES: 21 gears. 6061 alloy frame. Weight is 26 lbs

Now that your child is all grown up, you can think about 20″ bikes. The best one, in my opinion, is the Co-op REV CTY. This is the age when kids should learn how to properly change gears on a bike, which is why this model has 21 of them. The groupset on this bike is Shimano Tourney, which is entry-level, but it’s more than enough for your kid to ride it all day long without any issues.

The aluminum frame and 1.5″ tires mean that the REV CTY is more suitable for city riding, but it can certainly handle some trips off the beaten track as well.

Same model: Girls 24 inch bike

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Cleary Bikes Scout (24″ MTB)

Consider also

Cleary Bikes Scout 24 kids mountain bike

MSRP: $840
TIRE SIZE: 24″ x 2.25″
SUITABLE FOR: Standover 26″
FEATURES: 10 gears, Shimano Deore components, 80mm of front suspension travel, hydraulic disc brakes

This is by far one of the best MTBs for kids. It has pretty much the same components that good adult bikes have, just placed in a smaller package. If you really care about buying your kid a good-quality bike that they can enjoy and test their limits on, then this is the one.

This Cleary Bikes Scout model can be ridden more seriously in bike parks and on singletracks. This makes it an excellent choice for your child to start exploring the MTB world more seriously and maybe enter some races. It has an 80mm SR Suntour fork, Shimano Deore components, powerful hydraulic disc brakes, a sturdy Chromoly frame, a 10-speed cassette, and massive 2.25″ tires.

 

Get From Competitive Cyclist


woom 6

Best Bike for 12-year-olds (and older)

woom 6

MSRP: $499
TIRE SIZE: 26″
SUITABLE FOR: 10 – 14 years (55″ – 65″)
FEATURES: 5 colors, 8 speeds, 20.06 lbs, rim brakes, Grip shift

Bikes with 26″ tires are the best for transitioning from a kids bike to an adult bike. Depending on the height, many adults ride them as well. This woom model has many advantages which make it a great choice. It comes in 5 colors, red, blue, green, yellow, and purple, which make it ideal both for girls and for boys.

Moreover, woom 6 comes with eight speeds and SRAM grip shifters, which are very easy for children to learn how to use. It also boasts wide, low-resistance tires, light aluminum frame, and aluminum v-brakes. Your child will surely ride it happily for many years to come.

 

Buy Directly From woombikes.com

 



Cleary Bikes Scout (26″ MTB )

Best Kids Mountain Bikes

Cleary Bike Scout 26" MTB

MSRP: $860
TIRE SIZE: 26″ x 2.25″
SUITABLE FOR: 25″ Inseam + Stand-over height is 27.3″
FEATURES: 2 colors. 1×10 gearing, hydraulic disc brakes, Tektro junior levers, 100mm of travel. 28.5 lbs

If you are looking for kids mountain bikes, then here you are.

This is a proper MTB bike, meant especially for the kids. The head tube angle is 69°, which is just in the middle between slack and steep geometry. That makes it a versatile bike that does well both on descents and on flats. However, it leans more toward a slack geometry, which means it has a longer tire clearance, so it’s quite stable.

This is not the cheapest kids bike out there, but it’s the best choice if you want to teach your kids some proper trail techniques and enable them to enter some junior races as well. It has the same components as many adult mountain bikes, so your little rider will not be lacking any tools to get the job done.

 

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Co-Op Cycles REV 20 

Mountain bike for 6 to 7-year-olds

Product image for Side view (Blue Nights)

MSRP:  $319
TIRE SIZE: 20 x 2.6″
SUITABLE FOR: MTB oriented kids, 5 – 8 years old
FEATURES: 6 gears. Mechanical disc brakes. Standover height of 19″. Weight 23 lbs.

Suitable for younger kids who wish to learn more about mountain biking. The tires are pretty wide, which makes the bike very stable. If that’s a problem, you can change them to a narrower set (2.1″ or 2.2″ would be better). Wider tires forgive more mistakes when choosing a trajectory, but they are more difficult to get going when you do not have a lot of leg power.

It’s a great bike for your kid to join you on your off-road rides and learn about your favorite hobby. Plus, it has lots of stopping power, so they can take some controlled risks as well.

 

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Argon 18 Xenon

Best Kids Road Bikes

MSRP:  $850 $599.99
TIRE SIZE: 24″ x 1″
SUITABLE FOR: 9 to 16-year-olds
FEATURES: Thermotech tubing Aluminum, carbon fork, 2×7 gears

Finally, let’s check out the best kids road bike as well, for those who do not prefer mountain biking. The Argon 18 Xenon is the absolute winner, in my opinion. It has a lightweight aluminum frame and a carbon fork, which is not often seen on kids bikes. The STI levers will teach them how an adult road bike works and allow them to brake and shift gears more efficiently.

This bike is not ideal for entering races, but it’s a great choice for training and practicing road riding skills. It also has 1-inch tires, which are not too narrow, so the bike will grip better when cornering. It’s a good choice to show your child what road biking is all about.

 

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To Sum it up

Suggested bikes for kidsThe things that you need to worry about when choosing a bike for your child are the size, the geometry, the components, the intended use, and the amount of money you’re willing to spend.

Now that we have covered most of these aspects together in the article above, you should be ready to make the best choice. You’re likely to find exactly what you need among the models that we have recommended, as there is something for every age group.

If you’re still struggling to pick one or you have any additional questions, just express your concerns in the comment section below. We’ll gladly give you our two cents. Happy riding!

Have questions? Feel free to ask below

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